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Meet the Team

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Kate Buckley, PhD
Principal Investigator
As an undergraduate, Dr. Buckley studied biochemistry at Hood College in Frederick, MD. She became an evolutionary immunologist during her PhD work at George Washington University. After postdocs at the University of Toronto and Carnegie Mellon University, she moved to Auburn in 2019.

When not in the lab, you can find her scouring estate sales, turning bacon fat into soap, or with her cats Amelia Grace and Wilbur Murray, who are objectively the best cats on the planet.

The Graduate Students

Cheikouna Ka
PhD Student
Che grew up in Senegal and graduated from Auburn University in 2019 with a B.S. in Biological Sciences.  He is keenly interested in developmental biology and is co-advised by the "other sea urchin expert" in the department, Dr. Ryan Range.  He is currently working to understand the role of membrane-bound regulators of Wnt signaling in early embryogenesis.

Che's true love is science education. He has recently completed a Master's degree in Science Education and hopes to pursue a career that will enable him to teach others.
Nick Kraieski
Master's Student
Nick graduated from AU in 2021 with an B.S. in Marine Biology. He is our resident expert in biochemistry and evolutionary biology.  He is also an annoyingly excellent birder.  Nick loves annotating genes and taking lab notes on lab paper towels.  His project is to identify novel roles for copper in regulating sea urchin embryogenesis.

Nick is an avid video gamer and makes a mean walking stick.  He plans to pursue a Phd in biology as soon as he narrows down which of the many fields of biology he loves the most.
Megan Maloney
PhD Student
Megan's journey to Auburn brought her through a B.S. in Marine Sciences from Coastal Carolina University and a M.A. from University of West Florida.  Megan is a gifted aquarist who can keep any marine creature alive.  She is also our local expert in Cnidarian biology.  Her PhD thesis is centered on understanding how the upside-down jellyfish (Cassiopea sp.) respond to temperature stress.

Under the water, Megan knows know fear; she pokes spiny lobsters, picks up cone snails and pets sharks.  She plans to continue studying marine biology in academia.
Tyler Smith
PhD Student
Tyler graduated from AU in 2021 with an B.S. in Biomedical Sciences. He grew up in Pennsylvania, which is, objectively, the best state.  Tyler strongly prefers development to immunology, which the rest of the lab finds a bit strange.  His project is to characterize the gene regulatory network that controls early hematopoiesis in sea urchin embryos.

Tyler drives a very well-loved pickup truck and his true loves are fishing and NASCAR. He is planning to continue studying development as he pursues a career in academia.
Yu Sun
PhD Student
Yu comes to Auburn University after growing up in Qingdao, China.  While the rest of the lab is busy toiling away with messy wet lab experiments, Yu sticks to answering biological questions computationally.  Armed with an HPC, no question is too big for her coding prowess.  She is currently working on understanding the evolution of immune gene families within echinoderm species.

Yu loves travelling and good food.  She plans to find a career in bioinformatics.
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Jake Tatum
PhD Student
Jake graduated from AU in 2022 with an B.S. in Microbiology, a subject that he is absurdly good at.  He routinely watches in horror as the rest of the lab inoculates cultures using pipette tips and pours plates by eye.  His project is to identify specific behaviors and/or molecules within microbes that elicit aspects of the immune response to sea urchin larvae.

Jake's greatest flaw is the way that he writes the number 8.  He is planning to pursue a PhD in microbiology that will enable him to work in the pharmaceutical industry or drug development.
Emily Wilkins
Master's Student
Emily comes to Auburn from the University of Delaware, where she received a B.S. in Marine Biology.  Her greatest flaw is that she prefers Wawa over Sheetz for reasons that no one can understand.  Emily is quickly learning embryogenesis and molecular biology in her current work of profiling epigenetic changes that occur in response to the environment.

Emily loves all Philadelphia sports and is arguably one of the most pleasant people alive.  She plans to pursue a PhD in marine ecology.
Amelia Williams
PhD Student
Amelia is an Alabama native who graduated from AU with a degree in Biomedical Science.  She's always game for an excellent pun or a high five, but arguably her greatest strength is sharing a name with Dr. Buckley's cat.  Her PhD work is entered on understanding sea urchin larval immune responses at single-cell resolution.

Amelia loves her cat named Mango and has more social skills than the rest of us combined.  She is hoping to remain in academia.

Former Lab Members

Master's Degree Students

Jessica Gore, 2022; Current position: PhD program, Vanderbilt University

Ethan Tucker, 2022; Currently in seminary school


Madilyn Miller, 2022 - 2023; Current position: University of Alabama Optometry School

Chad Hamm, 2020 - 2021; Current position: M.S. Program, Auburn University

Undergraduate Students

Maddie Hamborg, 2023

Kate Weatherford, 2023

Anna Sawrie, 2023

Ariel Sharp, 2023

Cadyn Campbell, 2023

Abbey Behler, 2020 - 2023; Current position: M.S., University of Tennessee

Auburn Brown, 2022 - 2023

Jackson Howard, 2022 - 2023

Chandler Jacobs, 2022 - 2023

Connor Sisk, 2022 - 2023; Currently in an NIH Postbac Program

Jessica Broach, 2021 - 2023

Felicity Milam, 2022

Andrew Mayer, 2021 - 2022; Currently enrolled in MSNT, Auburn DBS

William Merrill, 2022

Madilyn Miller, 2021 - 2022; Current position: O.D., Univ. of Ala. Birmingham

Amelia Williams, 2021 - 2022; Currently a PhD student in the lab!

Harrison Carrell, 2021

Autumn Pipkin, 2020 - 2021; Currently enrolled in  MSNT, Auburn DBS

Bree Cobine, 2020 - 2021; Currently in Univ. of South Ala. College of Medicine

Nick Kraieski, 2020 - 2021; Currently a Master's student in the lab!

English Todd, 2020 - 2021; Current enrolled in MS, Univ. of South Florida

Leah Watts, 2021                    

Stephen Williams, 2020 - 2021; Currently in Univ. of Glasgow Veterinary School

Cooper Monistere, 2020

Emily Ratkowiak, 2020

Tyler Whitfield, 2020; Currently M.S. Program in Biosystems Engineering at AU

Abigail Poss, 2020

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